Part relatable human, part cold automaton
More action-packed and more complicated than its 2012 predecessor, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” favorably evolves the dynamic of Marvel Studios’ premier team. But it is not without storytelling hitches.
Returning director-writer Joss Whedon adeptly, if at times unequally, shapes the lives anew of the once-reluctant teammates—Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—who are now a more cohesive unit, as immediately illustrated in gush-worthy, glorious action scenes.
Project gone awry
“Age of Ultron” also brings back the two “miracle” beings, twins Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)—briefly introduced in last year’s “Captain America” film—as well as a powerful object, the scepter of Loki, from the first “Avengers.” Loki isn’t here, and actor Tom Hiddleston’s presence is missed, but the new villain is impressive in its own way.
Ultron, a nasty, Terminator-esque product of a secret artificial intelligence project gone terribly (and expectedly) awry, is this installment’s arch-foe, voiced with precision by James Spader. The robot’s a more threatening presence than Loki ever was, with its cold declarations of superiority and genocide, but again, it’s…different.
The good news is, characters Black Widow and Hawkeye, seeming afterthoughts since they didn’t have solo movies, get meaningful, moving back stories, becoming actually likable for a change. It’s much easier to root for the now-“humanized” members, who are quite aware of their less-than-demigodly stature in the team.
With just a few lines, the newer characters are similarly easier to sympathize with, which is among Whedon’s strengths as a storyteller. The multiple-character banter-fests also figure prominently, although the more popular ones have significantly less things to say and do, and each from the jam-packed cast has fewer witticisms to deliver.
It’s interesting that the movie version of Quicksilver, due to some legal detail, can appear in 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” and Marvel movies. The mutant/X-Men Quicksilver debuted memorably in last year’s “Days of Future Past.” The “Avengers” version has a less-distinct personality, but gets to be memorable here, nonetheless.
As with the first movie, there are stretched-out scenes, moments that could’ve worked much better if they were cut considerably— remember the Helicarrier scene last time? There’s something just as time-consuming here. Wrangling all the elements and characters is a tough task, no doubt, and it shows in the more rote, mechanical parts. And that Stan Lee cameo—that was rather unfunny, more than usual.
Be that as it may, “Age of Ultron” is quite enjoyable, a smarter-than-most summer blockbuster flick that should keep fans stoked. The reunited and expanded cast shows the same enthusiasm. And there are nice, if über-quick, appearances by Hayley Atwell (“Agent Carter”) and Julie Delpy (in a small but intriguing role).
While the team doesn’t quite have the valuable pathos of the X-Men, this group of super-powered volunteers are made exciting under Whedon’s keen guidance. Most of them are human, with corresponding neuroses and vulnerabilities, and the infighting is just as intense to watch as their serious bad-guy beatdowns.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.